1. Keep Animals Off Your Plate
Every year in the U.S., billions of chickens, turkeys, cows, and pigs are raised in miserable, filthy conditions—cramped together without access to the outdoors, denied their most basic instincts, mutilated without painkillers, and crudely slaughtered. Billions of fish and other aquatic animals die in fishing nets and fish farms. There are virtually no laws to protect animals raised for food, and the incredibly high demand for cheap meat, milk, and eggs makes offering individual care to billions of animals virtually impossible.
But animals aren't the only ones who suffer at the hands of factory farming. Our society's consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products is directly linked to serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, and more. Raising billions of animals for food also devastates wildlife and the environment. Millions of tons of fecal waste contribute to soil erosion, water pollution, and ozone depletion, and vast amounts of wasted grain, water, land and pesticides are expended in farming animals. Over-fishing and aquaculture are equally devastating to marine ecosystems.
To get started, find some vegan (no meat, dairy, or eggs) recipes on the Internet or pick up a vegan cookbook, and try out some new foods at a local health foods store. With so many delicious vegan foods available, you'll be surprised how easy changing your diet is. Remember that each time you eat a plant-based meal, you are making a difference for animals, the environment, and your own health.
2. Choose Cruelty-Free Products
Many consumer products, from cosmetics to cleansers, are tested on animals. When we choose cruelty-free products, we support ethical companies that know pouring toilet bowl cleaner or nail polish down rabbits' throats or in their eyes is neither ethical nor reliable for establishing a product’s safety. Take a moment to look for the statements “Not tested on animals” or “Cruelty-free” on the packaging. Otherwise, assume the product was tested on animals. Visit www.idausa.org for lists of companies that do and do not test on animals.
3. Don’t Wear Animal Skins
Animals are not fabric! Animals killed for fur, leather, suede, wool, angora, down and silk suffer immensely and unnecessarily. Boycotting these items reduces the demand and withdraws financial support for industries that profit from them. Fabrics not made from animals, including comfortable, fashionable non-leather shoes, are readily available from many mainstream and specialty stores and via online cruelty-free shopping sites.
4. Be a Guardian — Not an Owner
Much animal exploitation stems from the outdated belief that animals are our property and we are their owners. A simple shift in words can combat this harmful mindset. Calling ourselves animal guardians signifies a higher level of responsibility, respect, and compassion for him or her, and brings about a more humane world by modeling respectful language and behavior. Several cities have changed their legal ordinances to reflect this important distinction. Are you an animal guardian? Spread the word. Where you see or hear the term “animal owner,” introduce the idea of animal guardianship by speaking up or by writing to columnists, editors and publishers. For more information on how your community members can become official animal guardians.
5. Rescue, Adopt, Spay and Neuter
Each year, millions of cats, dogs, rabbits and other companion animals are killed in shelters because there are far more animals than adoptive homes for them. By rescuing or adopting instead of buying from a breeder or pet store, you can make a difference for an animal in need. Prevent shelter overpopulation by spaying (for females) or neutering (for males) your animal companions to ensure that they do not reproduce. IDA’s public service announcement, “Adopt and Save a Life,” has aired on CNN and on stations across the country. Contact IDA if you’d like to get this PSA aired in your community.
6. Boycott Animal “Entertainment”
Animals in circuses are trained through pain and intimidation, and spend most their lives cramped in cages while being transported from one location to another. Cruelty to animals is the main attraction at the rodeo, where severely injured animals are often denied painkillers and taken straight to the slaughterhouse. Zoos deprive animals of their most basic social and environmental needs, teach visitors little about animals, and are ineffective at preserving endangered species. Similarly, captive dolphins and whales suffer and often live only a fraction of their natural life spans. You can make a difference by boycotting animal “entertainment” and educating others to do the same.
7. Donate to Cruelty-Free Causes
Most universities and health charities use animals in research (called “vivisection”) that causes severe pain and death, even though there are many non-animal-based technologies that are cheaper, more reliable, and more humane. Because different species respond differently to diseases and drugs, data from one species cannot be reliably applied to another. Encouraging preventative steps to promote good health and strengthening and enforcing environmental regulations would do far more good for human health. Next time you are solicited by a health charity that funds vivisection, instead of sending a gift, write a letter urging the group to switch to non-animal-based technologies.
8. Protect the Environment
Because animals live in trees, on land, and in water, they rely on a stable climate, habitat, and food chain. One cannot protect animals without also preserving their habitats. By making environmentally conscious choices, we can make a difference for all species. Taking public transportation or driving more fuel-efficient cars reduces our contribution to global warming and, along with going vegan, is the best way to lessen our impact on the environment. Since all consumer products are made from the Earth’s resources and eventually end up in a landfill, reducing the number of products we use, reusing products when we can, and recycling products we cannot reuse significantly lessens our impact on the Earth.
9. Learn More
The more you know about issues affecting animals, the more effectively you’ll advocate for them. There are many books, magazines, and websites that can bolster your commitment to animals with a philosophical framework, facts and statistics.
10. Spread the Word
Talk to your friends and family about how they can help animals. Writing concise, polite letters to newspaper and magazine editors (be sure to include your contact information), requesting more vegan options at restaurants or supermarkets, and urging companies to adopt animal-friendly policies, make a big difference. IDA would be happy to send you materials to distribute. Leaving brochures in cafes, doctors’ offices, animal shelters, or other places is easy and effective. Get involved with a local animal rights group, or consider starting your own with a few friends. Be creative! Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to speak out for animals at a school, festival, house of worship, or community center.
11. Lobby Your Legislators
Legislators need to know that your vote depends on their opposition to animal suffering. Local animal groups and the offices of your state representatives can tell you what bills are pending and to whom you should write. Visit the Government Guide to find your legislators’ contact information.
12. Support the Animal Protection Movement
Volunteer your time, talents, services, and funds to IDA or other animal protection organizations. In order to be successful, the Movement must have the resources to bring animal issues to the public’s attention. Contact IDA for information about volunteer opportunities and giving options such as our monthly pledge or car donation programs.